From wool to hemp, sustainable creating supplies are a increasing company in the Mountain West

On a current Wednesday afternoon inside a 67,000-square-foot manufacturing facility in Reno, Nevada, a significant machine was moving a fluffy, off-white material via a series of drum rollers. The substance was becoming layered into thick panels of insulation created from a material not normally identified inside walls in houses: wool.

“Hot, cold, warm, dry – wool does it all,” mentioned Andrew Legge, founder and managing companion of Havelock Wool.

Havelock Wool insulation made of sheep wool lines the walls of a house located on Gray’s Crossing Golf Course in Truckee, Calif.

Ryan Salm


Ryan Salm Photography

Havelock Wool insulation created of sheep wool lines the walls of a residence situated on Gray’s Crossing Golf Course in Truckee, Calif.

The enterprise tends to make insulation items totally out of sheep wool. Legge began the enterprise in response to the lack of healthful and sustainable selections in the insulation market.

“As an insulator, we’d like to say that evolution has occurred in nature’s R&ampD division – not in some lab generating a synthetic fiber that is from the onset just not going to carry out as effectively,” mentioned Legge.

According to the Environmental Functioning Group, an environmental overall health advocacy nonprofit, typically utilized supplies like fiberglass and spray foam may possibly include toxic chemical compounds that can pose overall health dangers to installers. Legge mentioned that is pushing far more property owners to say, “Wait, I do not want that.”

“And if we’re undertaking our job,” he continued, “then when they go browsing for an option, they locate us.”

And a lot of people today did for the duration of the pandemic. Havelock Wool’s sales quadrupled for the duration of the initially year of COVID-19 and grew an additional 25% in 2021. Legge mentioned sales had been flat final year for the reason that production couldn’t preserve up with demand.

One more enterprise attempting to capture these shoppers is Hempitecture. Primarily based in Ketchum, Idaho, Hempitecture tends to make insulation out of hemp sourced from farmers in neighboring Montana. Mattie Mead, founder and CEO, mentioned sales have doubled year-more than-year because he launched the company in 2018.

“Consumer sentiment towards sustainability is a massive issue,” mentioned Mead. “The pandemic heightened the awareness of how significantly time we devote indoors.”

Mattie Mead, founder and CEO of Hempitecture, installs an insulation panel made out of hemp into the ceiling of a home being built.

Courtesy of Hempitecture


Mattie Mead, founder and CEO of Hempitecture, installs an insulation panel created out of hemp into the ceiling of a household becoming constructed.

Havelock Wool and Hempitecture are just two of the providers attempting to get a piece of the sustainable creating supplies industry estimated to be worth practically $81 billion. One more a single catering to eco-conscious shoppers is Denver-primarily based RavenWindow. It tends to make “smart windows” that automatically tint when it is hot to lessen heat and glare and permit maximum light and warmth when it is cold, assisting property owners consume much less power.

Nevertheless, companies with eco-friendly options attempting to achieve a foothold in the creating sector face a lot of challenges, mentioned John Freer, director of the Sustainable Building Technologies plan at the University of Montana’s Missoula College.

1 of the most significant hurdles? Several contractors are resistant to adjust and can be scared off by a new material or method.

“They know the material they’re operating with, they know how significantly it expenses, they know how extended it requires them to set up it, they know the longevity of it, and they know the warranty of it,” mentioned Freer.

Meanwhile, lots of clients are deterred by the rates of items like sustainable insulation, which can price twice as significantly as other kinds. Fiberglass panels, for instance, variety involving 30 cents and $1.50 per square foot, according to HomeAdvisor. Havelock Wool’s web-site lists its wool panels for involving $1.50 and $two.25 per square foot.

Insulation is usually much less than two% of a home’s total building price, with the typical quantity for a common single-household household is just more than $five,000, according to a 2019 report by the National Association of House Builders.

Nonetheless, that can add thousands of dollars to a project, mentioned Daniel Fraiman, who builds multimillion-dollar houses about Lake Tahoe and Truckee, Calif.

“The price becomes an inhibitor for undertaking some of these items,” Fraiman mentioned. “They appreciate the concept, and they get attached to it early on, and then when we get into what it expenses, it does not make the reduce.”

Fraiman mentioned clientele that determine to go with sustainable insulation have researched the rewards and studied the overall health dangers of other types, in particular for the installers.

Andrew Legge, founder and managing partner of Havelock Wool, stands beside boxes of insulation products inside the company's facility in Reno, Nev.

Kaleb Roedel


Mountain West News Bureau

Andrew Legge, founder and managing companion of Havelock Wool, stands beside boxes of insulation items inside the company’s facility in Reno, Nev.

“Spray foam insulation is a single of the gnarliest items there is,” mentioned Fraiman. “Those guys are wearing spacesuits. I imply, they’re in complete hazmat suits for the reason that that stuff is gnarly.”

Back at Havelock Wool, flurries of wool could be noticed floating via the air as workers in common face masks bagged and boxed items. The enterprise does not add any synthetic mixes or bonding agents to the material but does add a compact quantity of non-toxic boric acid to repel insects.

Standing in the center of the factory floor, Legge mentioned the enterprise will raise output later this year. He invested in new machinery so they can triple their processing capacity to far more than 16,000 pounds of wool a day.

“We are effectively aligned with what extended-run demand appears like and this shift in customer demand for greater, healthier, far more sustainable items,” mentioned Legge.

This story was made by the Mountain West News Bureau, a collaboration involving Wyoming Public Media, Nevada Public Radio, Boise State Public Radio in Idaho, KUNR in Nevada, the O’Connor Center for the Rocky Mountain West in Montana, KUNC in Colorado, KUNM in New Mexico, with assistance from affiliate stations across the area. Funding for the Mountain West News Bureau is offered in element by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

Copyright 2023 KUNR Public Radio. To see far more, take a look at KUNR Public Radio.

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